Intellectual property

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Starting and growing a business is one of the many thrills of being an entrepreneur. However, being an innovator or in the creative business means you need to do more to protect your ideas from being copied or stolen.

There are very few countries that take intellectual property as seriously as Singapore. As a result, Singapore is ranked as the leading country in Asia and second in the world in terms of legal protection for intellectual property. This comes as no surprise since it is located so close to the world’s biggest market, China.

As a foreign entrepreneur or business, you can take advantage of Singapore’s IP laws by first incorporating your business. After this is done, it is easy for you to register for the intellectual rights of your business to be protected.

What is Intellectual Property?

This is the intangible aspect of an innovative or creative business. In other words, these are the ideas surrounding a business.

For instance, an author is in the business of writing books. The IP aspect of the company is the ideas, characters, and stories associated with the book. This is because they are created solely through the writer’s intellect. Therefore, the printed book itself would not be classified as intellectual property.

There are several benefits of incorporating a company in Singapore for a foreign business. One of these is the dedicated intellectual property legal system put in place.

A specialised IP court was set up in 2002 and has four judges with expertise in intellectual property.

How Does the Intellectual Property Law Work?

Having ascertained what intellectual property is, the next thing is to know about the intellectual property law, which is the law that officially protects it. No one can copy and steal your ideas with the law in place. If they did, you would have the backing of the law to stop them.

What are the Intellectual Property Laws in Singapore?

As a business owner, you will find that Singapore offers excellent intellectual property laws to protect you. Depending on the nature of your business, these are the intellectual property laws available in Singapore.

Copyright Laws

If your business is in the artistic industry, you should consider Singapore’s copyright laws. The copyright laws protect intellectual properties that are musical, performance-based, literal, visual, writings, and paintings. It also covers computer programs and software.

In Singapore, copyright laws are governed by the Copyright Act. There is no fixed duration in terms of the protection offered. It solely depends on the nature of the intellectual property. Some copyrights have protection covering 50 to 70 years. When in doubt, hire the services of an IP lawyer or agency for proper guidance.

Artistic copyrights other than those for photography will cover the works while the author is alive. When the author dies, the copyright covers a period of 70 years from the end of the year he dies.

Works in the form of visual arts like broadcast and TV programs have copyright lasting 50 years from the end of the year they were created.

Published works and editions have a lesser duration. From the end of the year they were published, the copyright covers it for the next 25 years.

To show a business is protected by copyright, a Β© is added to the business name or product. It tells others not to copy, reproduce, or adapt the idea without consulting the business owner.

In Singapore, for an idea to be eligible for a copyright, it must become a tangible product. Therefore, using the previous example, a copyright can only be given for a published book and not the idea of the story.

Patent Laws

Patent laws are used to protect businesses that deal in inventions. Patent law protects a business and prevents others from producing, selling, or using the product.

In Singapore, a patent is given to cover a period of 20 years. However, an annual renewal fee must be paid to keep the patent valid. The framework or blueprint is then submitted and made public. The patent will prevent anyone from reproducing the invention.

An invention is only eligible for a patent if it is new and has an industrial use. However, there are two exemptions. Regardless of whether they are deemed eligible, Singapore’s Patent Act would not grant any protection in such cases.

The first is any invention that helps in the medical treatment of human beings or animals. This is because such discoveries will help better the lives of humans and animals. The second is any invention that promotes immorality or antisocial behaviour.

Trademark Laws

Trademark law is a unique intellectual property law that protects a business logo, phrase, or name. A good example is Apple Inc. Trademark law would prevent any other entrepreneur from naming their business Apple Inc.

In Singapore, an awarded trademark would last as long as the company is still in operation but is to be re-registered every 10 years.

The only condition that allows for the revocation of a trademark is if the trademarked identity is not used within five years. Trademarks are protected under the Trademarks Act.

Registered Design Laws

It is almost similar to design patents. However, this Singapore IP law goes the extra mile in protecting the overall physical design of the product. The law is put in place to protect designs, irrespective of the function.

A car manufacturer can use a Registered Design law to ensure no other manufacturing company can use a particular car design. However, the protection would only become active when the design is categorised as having an industrial application. This means at least 50 cars must be produced and marketed with that design.

The protection covers an initial period of five years but can be renewed for a further 10-year validity period.

Confidential Information or Trade Secrets

As the name implies, these may be certain secrets that help make a business a success. A notable example is the recipe for making Coca-Cola. This IP law prevents people knowing this trade secret (recipe) from sharing it with others outside the company.

To ensure the proper classification of the information under this law, the information in question must be protectable. This means it is not readily available or already available to the public.

If confidential information or trade secrets are divulged to someone, the person is under the obligation not to share them with the public. This holds true for ex-employees also.

Using the above example, a former employee of Coca-Cola cannot divulge the secret recipe to anyone because this law still protects Coca-Cola.

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